This is getting the thinnest of four-star ratings. I’m giving it all the first-time author grace I can.
I loved Samantha Jayne Allen’s sense of place. Her Texas is a real one that feels lived in. She’s very good at talking about the struggles of the locals without pandering (unlike, say, Stephen Markley’s Ohio which basically screamed “(Bad thing X happened because the locals were ravaged by the opioid crisis!”on every page). If this series runs long, I could see her building up on it more and more the way Ace Atkins built up Tibbehah County in his Quinn Colson series, a kind of well-told southern crime tale where the location gets gradually built up more and more over time
But the writing here leaves a lot to be desired. Allen’s prose is bumpy and her transitions tough. I actually put this down half way through not because it was a tough read but because I struggled to connect with how she was telling the story. I’d be trying to focus on a page and find myself glazing over it, only to snap out moments later.
Fortunately, putting it down had a positive effect because I roared through the finish. Allen’s a talented writer and has room to grow. I thought about Steph Cha’s Juniper Sero series; how the first in that one was rocky but how Cha morphed into such a great writer by the end and then went on to write the excellent Your House Will Pay. Allen has potential and I’m excited to see what directions she will take with this series.